Analysis Group report: No evidence that changing power mix endangers electric system reliability

Washington, D.C. — A new report by Analysis Group answers questions asked two months ago by Energy Secretary Rick Perry about the reliability and market rules of the U.S. electric power grid.

Analysis Group finds it is market forces – primarily low-cost natural gas and flat demand for electricity – that are causing some coal and nuclear power plants to retire, and not state and federal policies supporting renewable energy development. The report finds that the changing electricity resource mix poses no threat to reliability of the nation’s power system.

Perry launched a 60-day review of “critical issues” on the grid on April 14. National business groups Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) and American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) commissioned Analysis Group to answer independently the questions Perry raised. The Analysis Group report has now been submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy to inform its review.

“Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.”

Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.” width=Recently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.solar helps the gridRecently, some have raised concerns that current electric market conditions may be undermining the financial viability of certain conventional power plant technologies (like existing coal and nuclear units) and thus jeopardizing electric system reliability. In addition, some point to federal and state policies supporting renewable energy as a primary cause of such impacts,” states the Analysis Group report. “The evidence does not support this view.
“The transformation now under way in the electric power system is driven primarily by market forces,” said Susan Tierney, senior advisor, Analysis Group, and one of the authors of the report, along with Analysis Group Principal Paul Hibbard.

Low natural gas prices, technology changes, and flat demand for electricity have been putting financial pressure on and leading to the retirement of older, less economic power plants

This is a natural consequence of market competition. The result is a more diverse set of energy resources on the grid that is being capably managed in a way that provides reliable electric power.”

Key findings of the Analysis Group report:

Market forces: Fundamental market forces – flat demand for electricity, low natural gas prices since the mid-2000s and the addition of significant amounts of highly efficient new gas-fired resources since 2000 – are primarily responsible for altering the profitability of many older, merchant generating assets in the parts of the country with organized wholesale competitive markets. These market fundamentals are producing savings for consumers. 

Lesser factors: Factors such as rapid growth in deployment of advanced energy technologies, and state policies supporting such technologies also contribute to reducing the profitability of less economic assets, but such factors are secondary to market fundamentals in causing financial pressure on merchant plants without long-term power contracts.

Aging resources: The retirement of aging resources is a natural element of efficient and competitive market forces, and where markets are performing well, these retirements mainly represent the efficient exit of uncompetitive assets.

Reliability benefits: Many advanced energy technologies can and do provide reliability benefits by increasing the diversity of the system and by providing important reliability services to the grid. The addition of newer, technologically advanced, and more efficient natural gas and renewable technologies is rendering the power systems in this country more, rather than less, diverse. 

Baseload” an outdated term: Given the many attributes associated with a reliable electric system, the term “baseload resources” is an outdated term in today’s electric system which depends upon a wide variety of resources to provide essential reliability services and is seeing gas-fired resources and renewable capacity together providing both around-the-clock power and the flexibility to cycle and ramp as needed to meet and sustain bulk power system reliability objectives.

“The electricity system in the United States is stronger than it’s ever been,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE. “Thanks to innovation and smart policy, we have a more diverse fuel mix, a more reliable grid, and lower electricity costs. The Analysis Group report highlights how advanced energy technologies are helping to modernize the grid and how grid operators are well equipped to manage this market change. As DOE finalizes its report on reliability, we hope the Department will incorporate these key findings, which reflect the true state of the grid.”

Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA, said, “Like DOE, we wholeheartedly agree that reliable and affordable electricity is essential. Analysis Group’s report finds that wind and other advanced energy resources, driven by markets and technological advances, are improving electric reliability and reducing costs. Past dependence on a few fuel sources has given way to a more diverse grid, which is more robust and resilient. We think this analysis will be useful for DOE’s study, and we look forward to working with state and federal policymakers to implement market-based policies that will provide consumers with even more reliable electricity at lower cost.”

BACKGROUND

In a memo dated April 14 to his chief of staff, Brian McCormack, Secretary Perry directed the Department of Energy to conduct a study that would “explore critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid,” and to analyze “market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others,” and to report back in 60 days. 

On April 28, business trade groups AEE, AWEA, and SEIA sent a joint letter to Sec. Perry asking that the DOE “initiate a public process,” and that the study “follow standard practice and be conducted in an open and transparent manner,” noting that it is “customary” for agencies developing reports that provide policy recommendations to allow public comment on a draft, prior to the report being finalized. No reply was received. A DOE spokeswoman told Axios on May 5: “The findings will be released to the public (including stakeholders) once the study is completed this summer. The Secretary looks forward to receiving input from all parties once that occurs.”

On May 16, AEE, AWEA, SEIA, and ACORE held a press briefing on documents each submitted to DOE to inform its study of the electric power system and reliability:

AEE: Changing the Power Grid for the Better – shows that today’s electric generation mix is more diverse than ever; low-priced gas is primarily driving the change in resources, followed by flat load growth and competition from renewables; ERCOT and PJM experience shows reliable grid management with high degree of variable renewables and even in extreme conditions.

ACORE: Energy Fact Check – The Impact of Renewables on Electricity Markets and Reliability – ACORE-produced report covering questions around baseload power and economic impact raised in Secretary Perry’s April 14, 2017 memorandum directing a study to explore critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid.

AWEA: Renewable Energy Builds a More Reliable and Resilient Electricity Mix. Grid operators are already reliably integrating large amounts of wind energy, and their studies show they can go much higher. Integrating renewables on the power grid costs less than integrating baseload sources; modern power electronics enable renewables to provide reliability services as well as or better than conventional power plants; and renewables diversify the energy mix, improving economics and resiliency. Renewables are not the primary factor undermining baseload sources – as can be seen by maps of where each is predominately located, cheap natural gas is the primary factor. AWEA also submitted a literature review of over 30 existing research studies by federal agencies, regional grid operators, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), and others.

SEIA: Solar & Renewables Benefit Grid & The U.S. Economy – Solar and renewables provide significant advantages to the national grid in terms of reliability, fuel diversity and national security. This SEIA review highlights multiple studies showing that the existing grid can handle high penetrations of renewable energy to the benefit of ratepayers, grid system operators and system performance.

In their letter transmitting these materials to DOE, the groups concluded: “We believe that, taken together, these reports demonstrate that the U.S. electric power system is more diverse in its energy sources than ever before, and due to the flexible way these resources are now managed, becoming more reliable and resilient as a result.”

Sources: Advanced Energy Economy at American Wind Energy Association, June 20, 2017

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Urban Solar awarded contract by City of Tempe for solar lighting installations

BEAVERTON, OR – Urban Solar is pleased to announce the award of a contract to supply solar powered LED lighting systems to the City of Tempe, Arizona. The 5-year contract provides increased safety for Tempe residents and transit users, with reliable solar lighting systems including a stop recognition feature.

Tempe City Council passed a master plan in 2015 to enhance safety, quality of life, and technology in its transportation systems, and selected Urban Solar to provide enhanced safety with its transit shelter lighting systems. Urban Solar won top pick for its reliable, high performance solar lighting solutions designed for the transportation industry.

Tempe City Council passed a master plan in 2015 to enhance safety, quality of life, and technology in its transportation systems, and selected Urban Solar to provide enhanced safety with its transit shelter lighting systems. Urban Solar won top pick for its reliable, high performance solar lighting solutions designed for the transportation industry.
Urban Solar’s roots are in transit-specific design, particularly with bus stops and shelters. Urban Solar provides autonomous, stand-alone off-grid systems, which reduce the need for disruptive and expensive trenching to utility poles. Urban Solar lighting products have an industry-leading warranty and are tested, listed, and audited by Underwriters Laboratories (UL); the most prestigious nationally recognized testing laboratory (NRTL) worldwide.

“Tempe, Arizona, is an extremely challenging environment,” says Urban Solar VP of Engineering and Operations, Garnet Luick. “This competitive award provides further evidence of Urban Solar’s dedication to, and understanding of, high performance and reliability in engineering solar powered LED lighting solutions.”

Sources: Tempe Transit and Urban Solar

Solar Accounts for 1 in 50 New U.S. Jobs in 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 7, 2016 — The American solar workforce grew at a historic pace in 2016, a year when one out of every fifty new U.S. jobs was in the solar industry, according to the new National Solar Jobs Census 2016, the seventh annual report on solar employment issued by The Solar Foundation.

The National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that solar industry employment growth outpaced the overall U.S. economy by 17 times as it increased by over 51,000 jobs, for a total of 260,077 U.S. solar workers. The solar workforce grew by 25 percent over 2015, the largest annual growth percentage since The Solar Foundation’s first National Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.

The number of solar jobs increased in 44 of the 50 states in 2016, showing that solar industry growth is truly a nationwide phenomenon. The state with the highest total number of solar jobs in 2016 was California, followed by Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida. A complete list of the number of solar jobs by state, along with state growth rates over 2015, can be found at SolarJobsCensus.org.

“With a near tripling of solar jobs since 2010, the solar industry is an American success story that has created hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. 

“In 2016, we saw a dramatic increase in the solar workforce across the nation, thanks to a rapid decrease in the cost of solar panels and unprecedented consumer demand for solar installations. More than ever, it’s clear that solar energy is a low-cost, reliable, super-abundant American energy source that is driving economic growth, strengthening businesses, and making our cities smarter and more resilient.”

Solar job growth in 2016 took place in all job sectors, including a 26 percent growth in manufacturing companies to 38,121 jobs nationwide. Installation jobs increased by 14 percent to a total of 137,133 jobs. Project development jobs increased by 53 percent to 34,400 jobs, while sales and distribution jobs increased by 32 percent to 32,147 jobs.
“Solar is an important part of our ever expanding clean energy economy in Massachusetts, supporting thousands of high-skilled careers across the Commonwealth,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. “Through the continued development of solar incentive programs, Massachusetts is positioned to double the amount of solar for half the cost to ratepayers and maintain our position as one of the best states in the country for energy diversity.”

“More and more business leaders and investors recognize that climate change presents both risks and opportunities, but they need better information to make informed decisions. The Solar Jobs Census helps provide that,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P., philanthropist, and three-term Mayor of New York City.

Nine percent of solar workers nationwide are veterans, compared to 7 percent in the overall U.S. workforce. Census 2016 also found that the percentage of solar workers who are women increased from 24 percent in 2015 to 28 percent in 2016, the percentage of African-American solar workers increased from 5 percent to 7 percent, and the percentage of Latino/Hispanic solar workers increased from 11 percent to 17 percent.

“It’s really a wide range of people that get hired into this industry, everybody from certified and licensed engineers to those who first learned about a solar project when we were building one in their area,” said George Hershman, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Swinerton Renewable Energy. “A great aspect of this business is that it isn’t an exclusionary trade. It’s a teachable job that can create opportunity for people and give them a skill.”

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“Renewable energy use translates to bottom-line benefits such as lower and more stable energy costs for GM in the long term,” said Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Renewable Energy at General Motors. “With more than 67 megawatts of solar housed at 24 facilities across the globe, we see the power of sunshine as an integral part of becoming a more sustainable company.

“As one of the world’s largest owners of rooftops, Prologis is committed to leveraging its portfolio and capabilities to host solar and other clean energy technologies,” said Matt Singleton, Vice President for Global Energy and Development at Prologis. “As of year-end 2016, nearly 165 MW of rooftop solar is hosted within our global portfolio of modern industrial real estate assets. Increased solar deployment is one important tool in working to address climate change, and one that simultaneously spurs job creation, as shown by The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census.”

“As part of our commitment to sustainability and goal to be energy independent by 2020, IKEA is proud of its 44 MW of solar arrays atop 90 percent of our U.S. locations,” said Lars Petersson, IKEA U.S. President. “We are thrilled that our solar investment has helped contribute to rapid growth in the clean tech and renewable energy industry ¾ and the creation of quality jobs and a low-carbon society as a result.”
The complete National Solar Jobs Census 2016.

Source: The Solar Foundation

Urban Solar wins RFP to supply bus stop lighting systems for Orange County

ORANGE COUNTY, CA – Urban Solar is pleased to announce it has been awarded a three-year contract to supply its PV Stop lighting systems to the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) after successfully winning a competitive solicitation.

OCTA chose Urban Solar’s PV Stop to increase safety for riders, further enhancing its bus stop amenities. The PV Stop is a UL Listed solar powered system with high intensity LED lighting. Urban Solar wins RFP to supply bus stop lighting systems for Orange County
More than 100 of Urban Solar’s PV Stops were successfully installed in 2012, and this award will add to the transportation authority’s current 1,200+ lighting units installed at bus stops along major transit corridors.

Urban Solar wins RFP to supply bus stop lighting systems for Orange County.  Picture in desertUrban Solar wins RFP to supply bus stop lighting systems for Orange County. OUTDOOR DAY PARK SHOT
“We at Urban Solar have enjoyed working with OCTA in the past and are thrilled to continue our relationship with the agency to provide reliable solar powered safety and security lighting for the riders of Orange County,” says Ben Guriel, Senior Business Development Manager at Urban Solar. 

About OCTA
Orange County Transportation Authority 

OCTA 

About Urban Solar

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Phase two of Ellershouse Wind Farm in Nova Scotia is now generating clean power

ELLERSHOUSE, NS, June 29, 2017 /CNW/ – Today, the launch of phase two of the Ellershouse Wind Farm is being celebrated by Bullfrog Power®, East Coast Credit Union, developer Minas Energy, and Alternative Resource Energy Authority (AREA), which is the facility owner. AREA, a partnership between the Towns of Antigonish, Berwick and Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia, was created by the towns to reduce energy costs, expand green mandates and develop new revenue streams for the municipalities. 

The second phase adds three turbines to the original four-turbine wind farm in West Hants, near Ellershouse, Nova Scotia. The project is the first wind development in Nova Scotia to be funded and built independently of the local power authority or any provincial government incentive program.

“Bullfrog Power launched in the Maritimes in 2009 to mobilize and create further demand for renewable energy in the region. The launch of the second phase of the Ellershouse Wind Farm is proof of the impact that our customers, like East Coast Credit Union, are having in growing the amount of renewable energy generated in Nova Scotia,” said Ron Seftel, CEO, Bullfrog Power.

Source: Bullfrog Power

The Ellershouse Wind Farm is the latest wind project supported by Bullfrog Power. Thanks to the support of Bullfrog Power’s customers, the organization has been involved in the commissioning of wind farms across Canada, including some of Ontario’s first wind turbines. In Nova Scotia, Bullfrog Power funded community-based rooftop solar projects with both Hope Blooms and The Deanery Project. Bullfrog Power has also helped to change Canada’s energy landscape by offering innovative new products, including green natural gas in 2012, and, last year, a green fuel product to help businesses address their transportation-related emissions.

“The financial support of Bullfrog Power was important in ensuring the ongoing success of this project. By launching the second phase of the Ellershouse Wind Farm we are demonstrating real progress in developing new, cleaner forms of power for Nova Scotians,” said David Devenne, Mayor of Mahone Bay and AREA Vice Chair.

The seven Enercon E-92 wind turbines have a total capacity of 16.1 megawatts, which is enough to power 4,900 Nova Scotian homes.1 All three of these towns’ electric utilities as well as the Riverport Electric Light Commission purchase part of their energy requirements from the Ellershouse Wind Farm. In addition, Bullfrog Power sources the green power produced by the facility for its Maritime customers, such as East Coast Credit Union. AREA owns and operates the wind farm.

“Minas Energy believes that local stakeholders are essential in developing new renewable energy throughout Nova Scotia. With the launch of its second phase, we’re proud to see the continuing success of the Ellershouse Wind Farm,” said John Woods, Vice President of Energy Development, Minas Energy.

Sources: Bullfrog Power, The Alternative Resource Energy Authority (AREA), PR Newswire